As the pandemic continues, Bigger Vision Homeless shelter has adapted to meet its residents’ needs. While COVID-19 has limited services provided inside the facility, the shelter continues to serve the homeless population of Athens.
“Before COVID, we were able to shelter 34 individuals every night. Because of COVID, we had to reduce that so that people had six feet of distance between each other while they were sleeping. So now we can shelter 17 people each night, and up to five of those could be abundant life people,” Executive Director Kelsey Walker said. The abundant life program provides five unemployed residents the opportunity to obtain higher education and job skills while living in the facility.
Guests staying through the emergency shelter program have a curfew from seven at night to seven in the morning. For the abundant life program curfews are more flexible to adapt to the guests’ school and work schedules.
“The abundant life program has helped me save so I could get a place of my own for the first time since I was in college. I had been on and off the streets living with friends or in shelters since 2012 when my mom passed away and now I can come home after work to my own place thanks to Bigger Visions’ Abundant Life Program,” said a former guest who declined to provide her name.
To limit the number of individuals inside the shelter and keep guests within 6 feet apart, shower and laundry days are alternated currently.
During the summer other local organizations stopped providing showers and laundry services, but Bigger Vision decided to step up by establishing shower and laundry appointments. At the moment, overnight guests can use these services when staying or through an appointment,
Inside the facility, guests are welcome with essentials such as soap, deodorant, wet wipes and masks. Many of these items can be donated to Bigger Vision’s Amazon wishlist. The shelter chooses to be generous with how it distributes these resources.
“We have a list of items that we’re able to provide to our guests on our door so that way, even people who don’t stay with us can ask for any of the items that we have in stock,” Walker said.
Although in-person volunteers are not allowed still, community members are helping Bigger Vision by donating money and items.
When it comes to the shelter itself, they’re also looking forward and past the post-pandemic future.
“We would love to have more employees so that we can provide more services to our guests. We’d like to be able to have case managers on-site so that they can connect guests with resources, and have more of an opportunity to provide medical and mental health practice as well,” Walker said.